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Loneliness. 

That was the word Padraig Harrington used in his post-round press conference on Friday when asked what the biggest issue affecting European players was when they go over and play on the PGA Tour.

“It’s very evident when you watch the Europeans,” he continued. “It’s just a big change socially. They don’t have the same family infrastructure, friends, to keep their mind off the golf.”

The comments from Harrington, who says travelling to the States with his best friend makes a ‘huge difference’ to him, were interesting. Scrolling through the social media feeds of US-based stars like Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas would have you believe that pros fortunate enough to play on the PGA Tour are living the dream.

For Europeans without a permanent base stateside though, time away from the golf course can be difficult.

Soren Kjeldsen

“I agree with what Padraig is saying, absolutely,” Soren Kjeldsen, who played on the PGA Tour in the first three months of the season, told bunkered.co.uk. “It’s been tough. I’ve enjoyed the golf part of it – the tournaments, the courses, the players have been great – but away from the golf it has been lonely and it’s been tough for me.

“My family were able to come over now and again but it’s difficult with school. I enjoyed the experience but I’m glad to be back in Europe.”

Rafa Cabrera-Bello agrees. “The lifestyle is totally different over there and I’ve said that on many occasions before,” said the world No.31. “I truly love everything golf-related when we play on the PGA Tour but I love way more the lifestyle we have here in Europe once we’re off the course. It does get a little lonely over there at times.

“My fiancée Sofia is with me and my manager Richard comes over a lot of the time which gives me great support and helps me fight those moments of loneliness – but I think I deal with it pretty well.”

Beef

But what’s so different? Englishman Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston says loneliness hasn’t been a factor for him when he’s played in the States but sees Harrington’s point due to the close-knit bond between the players on the European Tour compared to that of the PGA Tour.

“I can understand where Harrington’s coming from, definitely,” Beef told bunkered.co.uk. “On the European Tour, you’ll see all the different nationalities – the French, Germans, Italians together – together and when you go out to America, it’s not really like that and that’s where I can see his point about the loneliness.

“There aren’t the same number of players on tour of the same nationality over there to hang with after rounds.

“For me, I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to get along well with a lot of the guys and, by the time you’ve finished your round, you just want to chill anyway – and I’m good at doing nothing!”

“There’s so much more camaraderie here in Europe,” added Cabrera-Bello. “There’s an official hotel where everybody stays meaning everybody is able to hang out with each other afterwards. In America, everybody just hangs with their own team and friends in private houses.”

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As for Kjeldsen, it’s a case of belonging. “I’ve been on the European Tour for 20 years so I know everybody here, I know most of the places and it just makes you feel comfortable. This feels like my tour.”

Andy Sullivan, who played on the PGA Tour for a spell at the start of 2016, sides more with Beef on the loneliness side but admits he prefers the company of his European Tour peers.

“I’m really good friends with my caddie so I had a group of people around me who I really enjoyed spending time with over there,” he said. “For me, loneliness wasn’t really a factor.

“The only difference for me was that you know everybody out here and I enjoy having that bit of banter with the boys. You don’t feel like you can do that as much over there because I’m not sure they receive banter in the same way.”

And for Sullivan, there’s a bigger issue about spending too much time in the States. “It just doesn’t look good on you, you know?” he chuckled. “You put some poundage on over there. I think just like with everything, I’m happy to embrace most situations and when you get thrown in amongst it, it is maybe a little bit different to out here on the European Tour but, like most things, there are good sides and bad sides to it.”

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